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INSPIRED team hosts computing academy for high school students

Eighteen area high school and middle school students recently learned how to program computer games andEthan Hasson and Valerie Hunter build their own web pages at an innovative computer science academy hosted by Lamar University’s INSPIRED – Increasing Student Participation In Research Development - program and supported by a National Science Foundation Broadening Participation in Computing grant and grants from ExxonMobil.

INSPIRED provides support for teams of Lamar computing undergraduates to perform research and outreach under the direction of Lamar University computer science Professor Peggy Doerschuk and Associate Professor Jiangjiang “Jane” Liu. The free high school academies are part of the INSPIRED outreach activities. INSPIRED undergraduates prepare the instructional materials, organize the event and teach the students under the direction of the faculty mentors.

INSPIRED seeks to increase the number of U. S. women and minorities who earn computing degrees to help meet the growing demand for computing professionals in today’s high-tech society.

Students participating in last week’s academy were from 11 area high schools and school districts including West Brook, Central, Hamshire Fannett, Monsignor Kelly Catholic, Sabine Pass, Nederland, Memorial, and Ozen high schools. Also represented were Harmony Science Academy, Marshall Middle School and Vincent Middle School.

Participants were Anca Andrei, Nathan Callahan, Bryce Cattel, Gabbie Escamilla, Rey de la Fuente, Davion Harris, Valerie Hunter, Sam Lin, Darius McMagon, J. P. Prevost, Paige Prevost, Karthika Senthilkumar, Taylor Smith and Evelyn Thomas of Beaumont; Natalie Collazo, Joshua Daniels and Brian Guidry of Port Arthur; and Noah Ogrydziak of Nederland.

The students learned computing concepts in a series of hands-on labs in game programming using Greenfoot, a game development platform based on Java, a mainstream programming language. Lamar undergraduates Kathlynn “Kasey” Doss of Beaumont, Valerie Juarez of Sour Lake and Daniel Vincent of Port Arthur developed the instructional materials for the game programming labs.

“The three undergraduates developed the materials as part of their ‘Java Gone Green’ project with support from a Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) grant to research, develop and test adaptable teaching materials that introduce students to computer programming and software,” Doerschuk said.

CREU is sponsored by the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) and the Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC). Funding for the project is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Doss, Juarez and Vincent will present a paper on their work at the 2011 Frontiers in Education Conference in Rapid City, S.D. in October. In November, the three will present a poster on their work at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference in Portland, Ore.

High school and middle school students in the academy also learned to develop their own web page using Microsoft Web Expressions and Hypertext Markup Language.

“Game programming and web page development are fun applications of computer science that benefit our society,” Doerschuk said. “The hands-on labs gave students a taste of computing in these areas.”

LU undergraduates Demetrius Taylor of Dayton and Michael Waterstreet of Hempstead served as co-coordinators of the academy. Lamar undergraduates Zeb Barnet of Lumberton, Ethan Hasson of Winnie, Jose Lopez of Dayton, Judson Ward of Vidor and Matthew Williamson of Hardin also helped the students.

In addition to the hands-on labs, guest speakers talked to the students about computing careers in different fields, such as medicine, information technology and business, and students also learned about how to prepare for college.

For more information on INSPIRED, visit the INSPIRED website at cs.lamar.edu/inspired, email inspired@cs.lamar.edu, or call Doerschuk at 880-8782, or Liu at 880-7741.